Stephanie Urdang was born in South Africa and immigrated to the United States at the end of the 1960s. She became active in the anti-apartheid and solidarity movements in the late 1960’s onwards. Since then she has donned many hats.
Journalist: Urdang’s journalism career began with the editing of Southern Africa Magazine, a publication of the Southern African Committee based in New York. This led to an invitation to visit the liberated zones of Guinea-Bissau in 1974. Her book, Fighting Two Colonialisms: Women in Guinea-Bissau, was based on this and subsequent visits to independent Guinea-Bissau.
In 1980 she was awarded a grant from The Ford Foundation to undertake research on women in post-independent Mozambique. She visited Mozambique frequently through the 1980s. This led to her second book, And Still They Dance: Women, War, and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique.
She has published many articles, in the media and in academic journals.
Researcher: In 1994-1985 Urdang was the research director for The American Committee On Africa, an NGO and activist organization that spearheaded the successful divestment campaign in the United States.
Gender Equality and Development: She began her work as a consultant for the United Nations in 1979 when she joined the staff of the Mid-Decade United Nations World Conference on Women. Amongst other responsibilities, she wrote papers on the effects of apartheid on women in Southern Africa, which were published in a co-authored book: Oppression and Resistance: The Struggle of Women in Southern Africa.
She produced and ran training workshop on gender and development for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In addition to UNDP, she worked as a consultant for UNFPA, UNIFEM, PAHO, ILO, the UN Center Against Apartheid.
From 1999 to 2005 Urdang was senior advisor on gender and HIV/AIDS for UNIFEM, the United Nations women’s organization. Where she spearheaded global projects that underscored the impact of the AIDS epidemic on women.
Rwanda NGO: In 2005 Urdang co-founded with human rights lawyer Rakiya Omaar, the NGO Rwanda Gift for Life which supported women who had been raped during the 1994 genocide and were, as a consequence, living with AIDS. RGFL helped the women gain access to AIDS medications and trauma counselling, ensured that their children went to school, were able to procure a nutritious diet, and had access to decent housing. Once the participants regained their physical and emotional health and well-being, RGFL supported the women in setting up their own sustainable small businesses. Once this final goal was achieved, the NGO was phased out.
Writer: Urdang’s memoir, Mapping My Way Home: Activism, Nostalgia, and the Downfall of Apartheid South Africa was published in November 2017.
She is currently completing a young adult book in collaboration with a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, Gustave Mukurarinda, which relates the story of his survival at age eleven. It will be published by Annick Press, Toronto in April 2019.
She lives in Montclair, New Jersey and returns regularly to South Africa.